Sunday, May 12, 2013

Selling Magic

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. -- Arthur C. Clarke
There is frequently a tension that builds between the Information Technology (IT) Department and the rest of the business (ROB) as a company grows. Today, in most businesses,  IT is essential to the businesses without being the business. And while there are other critical 'supporting' business functions, like HR and accounting, the ROB can understand these functions at some basic level, IT usually is harder to understand. For example, trying to explain Virtual Desktop Infrastructure (VDI) to a non-IT person is a challenge  because the outcome for that user is essentially the same thing they have now. And worse yet, if it works, the user will barely notice it.   This stuff looks like magic to ROB. We could just as well tell them them we need half-a-million dollars for magic pixie dust that will keep the desktops running, because that's what it sounds like to them anyway.* So, why is knowing this about the ROB important anyway? Because if IT wants to be able to serve the ROB in the manner it should, IT needs to learn how to communicate its needs properly to the ROB.

There are only three benefits the ROB cares about, making money, saving money, and mitigating risk, and in most cases they are prioritized in that order. Any proposal should be based on those items. Don't waste time trying explain the technology in detail, you can always do that off-line. Each of these benefits are concrete, and can be expressed with numbers. Make sure you back can back the numbers up with credible facts and sources. Once you have your numbers you can show the ROI for the proposal. Keep in mind however, that sometimes, the ROB can get a better ROI from something else, and they will choose to spend the money on that project.

*I am not implying in any way that the ROB is stupid, they just have not spent years and years immersed in IT. I think that what my auto mechanic does my as well be magic because I have not invested the time necessary to understand it. 

Problem Solved: Selling Technology